Happy Mother’s Day!
Hugues Merle (French painter) 1823 – 1881
Maternal Affection, 1867
oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 32 in. (100.9 x 81.2 cm.)
signed Hugues Merle and dated 1867 (upper right)
After studying with Léon Cogniet, Hugues Merle became a regular contributor to the Salon between 1847 and 1880, up until the last year of his life, receiving medals for his entries in 1861 and 1863. His themes of maternal love found a ready audience with newly affluent art patrons in America. In fact, by 1878-9, in his Art Treasures of America, Edward Strahan could cite as many as 52 works by Merle in American collections. His reputation was equally great at home in France, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Duc de Morny and also enjoyed the support of Adolphe Goupil, the most prestigious art dealer in Paris whose other leading artists included William Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gèrôme.
Merle was most often associated with his friend and rival, Bouguereau, not only because they depicted similar subjects but also employed a high finish and naturalistic technique. Merle was just two years older than Bouguereau, and their thematic and artistic similarities begged comparison from critics and collectors alike.
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Tonight, I’ll interview Eric Barnhill about Cognition, Movement, and Music. The topic is a bit obscure, but I’ve always been fascinated to hear Eric talk about his work. For me, this interview an excellent opportunity to have yet another interesting conversation… and you get to listen in!
Eric began his career as a Julliard-trained concert pianist, but now he’s a graduate student in medical physics in Scotland. Yes, that’s a bit of a strange path. Oddly, it’s been a path with a mostly steady trajectory, as you can see from his recent write-up for his alma matter. Here’s a bit:
During my time at Juilliard, I was introduced to an obscure field called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which was developed by the Swiss composer and music theorist Emile Jaques-Dalcroze at the turn of the 20th century. In Dalcroze, movement is combined with vocal work and improvisation to create an alternative approach to teaching music. However, musical subjects are intermediate goals, used to develop attention, focus, coordination and physical performance via movement.
In Dalcroze I saw a methodology of unexplored potential that brought all my varied interests together. However, Dalcroze as a profession, to the extent that it exists at all, mostly consists of young children’s music and movement classes. To many colleagues, I had abandoned interpreting Schubert sonatas for sitting on a floor with 3-year-olds rolling balls around.
Early in my Dalcroze career I was reverse-commuting to a children’s music school in the suburbs (a rite of passage for many a Juilliard grad, in one form or another), where I frequently taught Dalcroze and piano to special-needs and learning-disabled children. I took them on as students because I had a blast teaching them.
However, I began to notice something interesting: The struggles they had executing musical patterns in movement seemed deeply connected to their core special-needs deficits. Similarly, to the extent that these students’ ability to execute rhythmic tasks improved, their core deficits seemed to temporarily recede. If I found a way to help a low-functioning girl keep a beat, she would then become just as present as anyone else. If I could tune up a boy’s ability to track measure, suddenly he would sit up and listen to an entire sentence. Stepping and skipping the rhythms of a nursery rhyme with these children would result in an afterglow of clear and expressive speech from them where none previously existed. This observation was the most exciting one I ever made. It has been the cornerstone on which I have built everything I have done professionally since.
Fascinating, no? I hope that you join us for the interview!
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Here’s a fascinating and horrifying story: “A surrogate’s unimaginable dilemma.” I wish that I could share a relevant tidbit, but alas, it’s the kind of story that you just have to read from beginning to end… and it’s very well-told.
(The story raises all kinds of thorny questions about abortion rights in the context of surrogacy, and I hope that someone submits a question on the topic to Philosophy in Action’s queue. Update: WOOT! Emily submitted the question! You can read and vote for it here.)
As a matter of morality, I think that to inflict a life of pain, suffering, and incapacity on a helpless infant is very wrong. The pregnancy could have been terminated when the abnormalities were discovered, and doing so would not have harmed any person or violated the rights of any person. That’s because the fetus is not an independent person with rights or interests until born, as Ari Armstrong and I argued in our policy paper, The “Personhood” Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.
I value human life, deeply. I’m nothing but delighted by and supportive of people who value their future children while still in the womb. When a culture denies the value of human life — as Nazi Germany did — the results are horrifying.
Yet I cannot relate to people seek to “value life” by prolonging any form of existence by any means possible. Such people seem to value life in some kind of abstract or formalistic way, without regard for the kind of life lived, including the suffering inflicted by the attempts to sustain that life. That’s not the way that a rational and responsible adult values life, in my view. It’s emotional self-indulgence… or religious dogmatism… or duty ethics. Mostly, I’d say, it’s nothing good.
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Forbes published my latest OpEd, “Freedom, Not Fertility, Is The Key To A Thriving Economy” (2/27/2013).
I respond to some conservatives fretting about America’s low birth rate, and discuss why it’s not the government’s job to promote any specific lifestyle (e.g., single vs married or childless vs. multiple-child marriage).
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Via 22 Words:
Stay classy, kiddo.
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This news story is just flabbergasting:
A Dollar General employee arrested in Wrightsville [Georgia] last week for hitting a child with a belt has now been charged with two felonies, aggravated assault and cruelty to children. The charges were upgraded from simple battery because according to the police chief, store video shows the woman hitting the 8 year old at least 25 times.
… Wrightsville Police Chief Paul Sterling said [the child] Logan was running around in the store and got into a confrontation with [the employee] Bell, 39. Bell told investigators that Logan threw a cookie at her and that’s when she removed her belt, chased the boy down and spanked him behind the counter.
It’s bad enough for a parent to spank his own children, let alone to beat a child with a belt 25 times. (I discussed why on Philosophy in Action Radio in this June 2012 segment: Corporal Punishment of Kids.) It’s sheer insanity for a stranger to do that, and I’m glad that it’s being prosecuted as a serious crime.
The incident reminds me of an exchange that I had with an older check-out lady at Wal-Mart a few years ago. I was buying a really thick and heavy wooden spoon. (I needed it down in the barn to prepare food for the horses.) On scanning the item, the woman fondly remarked that she used to beat her children with such a spoon in order to “teach them respect.”
I was floored. My shock wasn’t so much due to the fact that she’d done that, as I certainly know that many parents still beat their children as punishment. I was shocked because she saw fit to gloat about it to a perfect stranger. She was completely unaware that anyone might be morally opposed to beating children, let alone doing so with a heavy wooden spoon that could only cause severe pain.
I replied that I didn’t think that parents needed to beat their children to teach them respect. I wish that I’d said more. Perhaps I should have even spoken to the manager. But at the time, all that I wanted to do was take my wooden spoon and leave!
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I hate the practice of forcing children to apologize. The wrongdoing child is required to lie by apologizing when he’s not sorry. Plus, the wronged child is required to pretend to believe that usually-obvious lie.
Yet such dishonesty is not the only problem with forced apologies. Children forced to apologize don’t have the opportunity to work out their problems for themselves — and to learn the consequences of doing so well or poorly.
So, I have to admire little Liam, who stuck to his guns and refused to offer a false apology.
(Via 22 Words)
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Family meetings are an excellent way for people to smooth the rough edges of life together. And I love Rachel Miner’s suggestion of each person talking about a mistake they made and what they learned from it too:
We start our family meetings with compliments. Each person gives each of the other family members a compliment. Not only does this help us focus on the positive, it also helps us recall times during the week when we admired each other. About six months ago, I was thinking about the growth vs. fixed mentality* and decided to add one more thing to this intro, a mistake. So, each person also shares a mistake that they’ve made during the week and what they’ve learned from that experience. The goal here is to make mistakes OK and recognize them as part of the learning process. I want my kiddo especially to see how common it is for grown ups to make mistakes and how the important thing is how we respond to those opportunities.
It’s crucial for kids to learn that people of all ages make mistakes routinely — and that the sensible response is to recognize and correct those errors. Absent explicit training in that process, kids learn to “manage” their mistakes by dishonesty — meaning, by denying their mistakes, concealing their mistakes, ignoring their mistakes, and rationalizing their mistakes. That’s disastrous, not just for a person’s life but also for his character.
If you’re interested in more, I published a paper on this very topic in the Journal of Value Inquiry back in 2004: False Excuses: Honesty, Wrongdoing, and Moral Growth.
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In my June 24th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on whether the corporal punishment of children is ever justified. Two weeks later, I was stunned and thrilled and blown away and elated to receive this email from a total stranger who found Philosophy in Action via the Stitcher App. Here, see for yourself (with his permission).
Dr. Hsieh -
I recently discovered your podcasts when I subscribed to Stitcher and the app suggested it as something I might like. The app was correct.
The first podcast I heard was the one in which you discussed corporal punishment of children.
I was raised by parents who scolded, yelled, punished and frequently spanked me repeatedly with a belt. Until now, I had prided myself that when I spanked either of my twins I did so only once with my open hand and only when they were “out of control” – but if truth be told I have also noticed that I only spanked them when I was frustrated and angry at their behavior as well.
You really made me think when you asked the question, “What are you teaching your kids when you hit them?’ But you made my jaw drop when you matter-of-factly stated, “Obedience is not a virtue.”
It was a simple yet grand statement that I instantly realized was TRUE. It was grand because I had never thought of it before.
I have, in fact, been trying to teach my children to be obedient. Obedient to me to be sure, but obedient nonetheless. Since hearing it, your statement has been ringing in my head like a bell and I’ve realized that obedient may be that last thing I want my children to be – and that includes being obedient to me.
I want them to be strong, intelligent, confident and self-directed. I want them to question everything and take no statement for granted. I want them to internalized a father who loves them and values and respects them as rational beings.
So, a day or so after I heard your podcast I sat down with my 4 years old son and daughter after giving them breakfast and I told them that I had decided that spanking them was wrong and that I would not do it anymore. Their eyes lit up at hearing this and something changed in our relationship at that moment. I also hit upon, quite by accident, the principal argument and rationale that I have since used over and over again to convince them to cooperate with me. I asked them to help me.
Children generally love to help their parents and I now regularly ask them to help me get them ready for school, or ready for bed. I ask them to help us get things done so we can do other things. There are still times when they are willful and uncooperative and I get frustrated and angry, but I’ve kept my promise to not spank them and instead I tell them honestly how I feel and I usually refuse to help them with some trivial request that they’ve made pointing out that they didn’t help me when I asked them to.
Now, I find their willful episodes becoming less and less of a problem – much less than when I would spank them for it. Instead, they seem to be learning that kindness and cooperation beget kindness and cooperation.
I thought that you might like to know that all this has come from you saying to me, “Obedience is not a virtue.”
I thank you for that truth.
- Christopher J. Wieczorek, PE
Wow, just wow. My hearty admiration and congratulations to Christopher. He’s quite a man — and quite a father.
If you missed that episode on spanking children, have a listen:
- Duration: 25:08
- Download: MP3 Segment
Also, if you’re interested in taking your parenting to the next level, I interviewed Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore on “Parenting without Punishment” on the next Wednesday. That’s here:
- Duration: 48:57
- Download: Standard MP3 File (11.3 MB)